Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Barcelona - 5 Talking Points, LaLiga 2018/19

Dembele scored the leveler for Barca
Dembele scored the
for Barca

Barcelona traveled to lowly Rayo Vallecano, as they looked to consolidate their position at the top of LaLiga. The Catalans were still without Lionel Messi, who had not recovered from a shoulder injury.

They opened the scoring through Luis Suarez in the first half when Jordi Alba ran free of the Rayo backline. But Rayo responded, equalising through Jose Angel Pozo in the 35th minute.

The home side took the lead in the second half, when substitute Alvaro Garcia pounced after Raul de Tomas' header came off the woodwork. It was an unexpected turn of events, and Barca had to wait to turn the tide.

Ousmane Dembele made it 2-2 in the 87th minute, and Suarez got his second in stoppage time to clinch the three points for the Catalans to send them four points clear at the top of the table.

It was an exciting game at the Estadio del Rayo Vallecano, and here the major talking points from it.

#5 Dembele comes off the bench to spur Barca on

Ernesto Valverde started with Rafinha yet again, but the Brazilian failed to make any substantial impact from the wide attacking position. After just 52 minutes Valverde turned to Dembele, bringing him on to inject some pace and energy into his side.

The Frenchman did just that, and he provided a direct approach compared to Barca's composed possession. Rayo did not have an answer to his skill, and he was definitely an improvement on Rafinha's showing.

He scored a measured half-volley to equalise for Barca, and Suarez scored in quick succession to clinch the win. Perhaps his performance has given Valverde food for thought. That being said, Lionel Messi is bound to return soon, so both Rafinha and Dembele may have to watch from the sidelines.

#4 Reminder: Luis Suarez is still really really good

Suarez celebrated after scoring the winner
Suarez celebrates after scoring the winner

Barcelona have not had Lionel Messi's services for the past two weeks, but another South American has compensated for the Argentine's absence. Suarez has been absolutely sensational in Messi's absence, and he was the star against Rayo as well.

The Uruguayan opened the scoring early on and then slotted the winning goal in stoppage time. He struck the woodwork as well and did not stop running till the end, which enabled him to clinch the points.

A physical decline is natural for Suarez owing to his age, but many were writing him off completely when the season began. He has roared back in recent weeks, and his hat-trick against Real Madrid last weekend was an utter masterclass. Simply put, Suarez is still very good, and he will soon have his partner in crime beside him. Beware, LaLiga defences.

#3 Harsh result for 19th placed Rayo

Rayo would feel that they deserved more out of the game
Rayo would feel that they deserved more out of the game

You would not have guessed that Rayo were second from bottom in the table from the way the played. Barcelona dominated possession, but Rayo soaked up the pressure well and always posed a threat on the counter.

They created numerous chances, and the pace they had in their frontline trouble the Barca defenders substantially. After Garcia scored the winner, Rayo were on course for a historic win and they kept the Catalans at a distance before two late goals turned the tables on them.

Rayo is struggling to stay afloat in the league, and much of it has been down to their leaky defence, which has let in a league-high 23 goals this season. But more performances like these will surely mean that the points will start trickling in for Michel's side.

#2 Majority of Barca's possession was impotent

Arthur and company failed to penetrate the Rayo backline effectively
Arthur and company failed to penetrate the Rayo backline effectively

The Catalans dominated the ball and recorded 69% possession throughout the game. But this number did not count for much, as the possession was more of sideways passing rather than any meaningful penetration.

Messi and Dembele did not start the game, and Barca lacked the direct approach which both of them provide. Despite Barca's possession superiority, Rayo had more shots and the same number on target. This tells that for all their possession, Barca did not trouble the Rayo goal much more than Rayo troubled theirs.

Coutinho could not involve himself much in the game, and the same can be said of Rafinha. Hence, both Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets completed more passes than Coutinho, Rafinha, and Suarez combined. The midfielders could not get the ball much to the forwards and circulated it among themselves.

#1 Jordi Alba has become.....better?

Alba is just a beast on that left wing
Alba is just a beast on that left wing

Jordi Alba has always been a consistent performer for Barcelona, but he seems to have reached another level recently. Following Neymar's departure and Valverde's tactics, Alba has essentially had the whole left wing to himself.

With power comes responsibility, and he has handled that ably. The Spaniard constantly makes runs in behind the opposition defence, and Suarez's opener against Rayo came as a result of that.

Furthermore, his pace and tenacity make him a great defender, someone who no winger would like to go up against. The all-around displays have seen him become a vital part of this Barcelona side. Only Rakitic and Busquets had more touches than him against Rayo. Alba has essentially become a left winger-back for Barca, and it is a sight to see him cantering up and down like a Duracell bunny.

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Edited by Moderator -PJ